Our New Pope and You: Responding to God's Call

Brother David Henley, Glenmary vocation directorMarch 2013

"He saved us and called us to a holy life, not according to our works but according to his own design and the grace bestowed on us in Christ Jesus before time began."—2 Tm 1:9

As I write my column for this month's newsletter, we are still in the midst of an historic moment in the Church, sede vacante. But by the time you read this newsletter, a new pope may have been elected. The cardinals have gathered in Rome for the general congregation and then the conclave to elect our new pope. Although there has been much speculation on who might be elected, I am trusting in the scrutiny of the cardinals and not that of the press. It seems apparent to me that we won't know who the next pope will be until he emerges onto the balcony overlooking St. Peter's Square.

I believe that cardinals will act upon the guidance of the Holy Spirit in their voting and will elect a leader for our time. Of course, I wish that I were able to be in Rome in order to see the white smoke rise as the sign that "Habemus papam (We have a pope)." But since I am not, I have found that the best way for me to stay updated is through some trusted sources on Twitter. I believe that about 16 cardinals currently have Twitter accounts, and I know that during the conclave, all the cardinals will be sealed off from the world in order to have the opportunity to pray and reflect on the election. Therefore, while I can't watch for the smoke, I know that once cardinals start to tweet again, we have a pope.

During these days my prayers have been for the cardinals and the election. I have also begun to pray for the new pope, although I do not know him by name. Instead of following the media's coverage of cardinals who may be in the running to be elected, I have been more interested in the cardinals' discussion of the qualities of the next pope. I think that during the first few days of the general congregation, it is important for the cardinals discuss what kind of leader is needed for the modern Catholic Church.

Cardinal Dolan said that "you look for a man who reminds you of Jesus." Cardinal Wuerl said of the next pope: "He needs to step out onto that balcony and he needs to say, ‘Christ is with us.' We need to listen to him. He has the answers to the questions of the human heart. He will show us a better way to live than the secular world can offer." And Cardinal George stressed that "he obviously has to accept the universal code of the church now, which is zero tolerance for anyone who has abused a child."

I also think that Pope Emeritus Benedict noted a few important qualities when he announced his own resignation: "I am well aware that this ministry, due to its essential spiritual nature, must be carried out not only with words and deeds, but no less with prayer and suffering. However, in today's world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith, in order to govern the barque of Saint Peter and proclaim the Gospel, strength of both mind and body are necessary ..."

Overall, the many qualities and attributes of the next pope that have been discussed leading up to the election describe the ideal candidate, and we realize that none of the candidates is perfect. We desire a pope who can serve as a leader for the Catholic faithful and also as the face of the Church for others around the world.

This description could depict, too, the type of man who is needed to serve in the missions as a Glenmary priest or brother. None of us is perfect, but despite our shortcomings, each of us has been called or elected by God to step forward to be a missioner. In the rural missions, Glenmary priests and brothers must be leaders of the small minority of Catholics who live there. And by the nature of their positions as ministers, they are oftentimes seen as the faces of the Catholic Church in those isolated areas.

The next pope will respond with a yes to the question asked him by the cardinal dean: "Acceptasne electionem de te canonice factam in summum pontificem? (Do you accept your canonical election as supreme pontiff?)" Likewise, are you ready to respond "yes" to this question asked by God: "Will you serve as a missioner in the rural and neglected regions of the United States?"